A Brief Guide to Dim Sum – The Popular Chinese Food


dim sum

Dim Sum is an indispensable part of Chinese cuisine featuring small servings of steamed or deep-fried bite-sized food served in bamboo baskets. Dim sum is eaten throughout Hong Kong, especially at breakfast time when you can find dim sum carts that move around the restaurant which makes it easier for people to pick their dishes.

An Overview

A plate of food and a cup of coffee

The word dim sum itself consists of two parts – dim (which means ‘to touch lightly’) and sung (which means ‘to drink tea’). This is because the dim sum was created so people could eat small portions while drinking tea together. There are also versions that claim this is because dim sums were not meant to be picked up with chopsticks but instead used to be pushed into incense containers when paying their respects to the dead. The kind of dim sum that involves pushing food into incense burners may have been influential on how dim sum evolved.

Origins of Dim Sum

A close up of a piece of cake on a plate

The origin of dim sum can be traced back to the Tang Dynasty (618-907) where it began as a kind of snack that was sold at teahouses and wine shops. Since then dim sum has evolved into one of the symbols of Chinese cuisine. Dim sum dishes are usually served in small portions allowing people to order several variations of dim sum for their meal. You can also customize dim sum dishes by ordering them on-demand with dim sum carts or dim sum menus.

As dim sums originated from Southern China, you will find more dim sums traditionally associated with Cantonese Chinese cuisines such as Baked Bun with BBQ Pork and Steamed Rice wrapped in Lotus Leaf. But Hong Kong is an international city with many ethnic influences which makes the dim sum in this region very diverse. You can find dim sums associated with other Chinese cuisines such as Szechuan, Shanghai, Fujian, and Hakka.

It is not possible to try all the dim sum delicacies in Hong Kong but if you are curious about it then here are some popular choices that are worth trying – Steamed BBQ Pork Bun, Rice Roll with Prawns & Chives, Pan-fried Radish Cake, Deep Fried Prawn Dumpling (Haam Sui Gok), Turnip Cake (Lo Baak Gou) and Shark’s Fin Dumpling (Sha Zi Gao). It would be worthwhile visiting dim sum shops where the bamboo baskets of dim sum are wheeled around on carts for customers to pick the dim sum they want. You can easily locate dim sum shops by the unmistakable aroma of dim sum that fills the air at dim sum restaurants.

In the End

The dim sum culture also involves picking dim sums off dim sum carts bowled around dim sum restaurants and having fun conversations over dim sums with friends and family, enjoying life just like what everyone else does in Hong Kong!

Dim sum is an indispensable part of Chinese cuisine featuring small servings of steamed or deep-fried bite-sized food served in bamboo baskets. Dim Sum has been around for centuries but it continues to evolve as dim sum culture spreads across the globe because its history and traditions are so deeply rooted in China’s cultural identity. The next time you’re craving dim sum, try these top picks that have stood the test of time.

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